'Britain's favourite work of art!'

July 26 2017

A story doing the rounds in the UK media today (e.g. here in The Guardian, and here in The Mirror) has declared that Banksy's 'Girl With a Balloon' is 'Britain's favourite work of art'. The news has been widely covered because having a Banksy at number one has been judged a great surprise, not least because it has, as The Guardian's headline states, 'soared past' other more established works like Constable's Haywain, which came in second place, and Turner's Fighting Temeraire, which was fourth. In third was Jack Vettrian's 'Singing Butler'. Antony Gormley's 'Angel of the North' was the highest placed sculpture in fifth place.

But - not so fast AHNers, for this 'news' is in fact a well-crafted PR story by Samsung, and doesn't really tell us what Britain's favourite painting is. The 'survey' was compiled by Samsung to promote the launch of a new television called 'The Frame', which, the Mirror says:

[...] becomes a piece of art when not in use.

Well, if you say so.

The survey was not an open vote, but put to two thousand people (we are not told how they were selected) from a shortlist 'drawn up by 'arts writers'. The two thousand respondents were only allowed to select their top five from this shortlist, which included things like album covers too. In other words, the survey was crafted to engineer as 'surprising' (and thus newsworthy) result as possible. 

For a more representative idea of what Britain's 'favourite painting' is, see a survery carried out by the BBC, which had votes from over one hundred thousand people. That poll (which did not include sculptures) was topped by Turner's 'Fighting Temeraire'.

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